WEB UPDATE: Aramark replacing J Street venues Miso and Baja Sol

Posted Monday, May 30, 11:40 p.m. Despite J Street’s multi-million dollar renovations last summer, two of its venues are closing, to be replaced with new eateries by late August.

Kate Moran, a representative from Aramark, said Miso and Baja Sol will be replaced by a burrito station and a salad bar, respectively. Both venues will be closed during the summer for alterations.

Moran said burritos were the most popular menu option at Baja Sol, and replacing Miso with a burrito station would meet the demand for a “fast, hearty, low cost entree.” Moran would not say whether Aramark, the private food service provider that operates venues in J Street, approached a national chain such as Chipotle to operate the burrito station.

Baja Sol will be replaced by The Salad Garden, a “new full-service salad station that will offer a variety of traditional salad options tossed-to-order and the ability to create-your-own salad,” Moran said. The venue will also offer sandwiches and yogurt cups.

Moran said the changes are being made as a result of comments Aramark received from students over the past year.

“The feedback from students made it evident that we could make changes that would better suit their needs,” she said. “For instance, speed of service at the burrito station was very important to students, and we are interested in meeting that need.”

Since the 2003 introduction of Colonial Cash, which allows students to use their GWorld cards at dozens of off-campus venues, Aramark has had to try harder to attract customers. In 2003 Aramark suffered a 30 percent blow to its profit margins, and the summer 2004 renovations at J Street were made so the dining center could remain competitive with other vendors on and off campus.

Due to a decrease in revenue, Aramark was forced to shorten its hours last year and has had to repeatedly lay off workers since December 2003. Last year Aramark signed a 10-year contract extension with the University to operate the Marvin Center’s eateries.

Former Student Association Sens. Ryan DeMerlis and Tim Saccoccia dedicated much of their tenure in the Senate to working to change J Street. The senators met with University and Aramark officials throughout the year to urge them to change the dining center.

DeMerlis and Saccoccia’s recommendations included having longer hours, more affordable pricing, healthier dining options and removing the District Market Express to put in a buffet.

Aramark officials have decided to implement some of the senators’ recommendations by making minor changes to existing venues. By August, a buffet offering both hot and cold food by the pound will open at District Market Express, and The Oven, formerly known as Tuscan Oven, will begin to feature more pastas and sandwiches.

DeMerlis said he still has reservations about J Street’s proposed changes. While the rising junior said he was pleased with the some of the alterations, he believes venues “could be a lot better.”

“I understand that it’s a money-making thing, but I don’t think it should be since it’s a University service,” DeMerlis said. “We get the argument that they need to make money. I’m a strong believer that if they get the customers they’ll get the money.”

Some other GW students held similar opinions about the changes being made to GW’s main dining location.

“I like the ideas of these additions but the service and the quality of food would have to be better for me to go to J Street more often,” rising sophomore Max Abbott said.

Rising sophomore Joe Greeley, who said he eats at J Street often, agreed with Abbott and said many people will still avoid it “because of its sub-par service.”

However, Greeley said that the new venues would probably be popular because they represent two successful products already on J Street – burritos and salads.

– Katie Rooney contributed to this report.

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